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Attenborough's Life Stories(TV) (2013)
Renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough has a remarkable treasure trove of stories following his 60-year career with the BBC. This 3-part series will bring to life some of his most memorable and is sure to be beloved by his legion of fans.
For more about Attenborough's Life Stories and the Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray release, see Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 28, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Writer: David Attenborough
Starring: David Attenborough, Jane Goodall
» See full cast & crew
Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray Review
"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 28, 2013
"I had a huge advantage when I started... my job was secure. I didn't have to promote myself. These days there's far more pressure to make a mark, so the temptation is to make adventure television or personality shows. I hope the more didactic approach won't be lost."
For all the fascinating animals he's studied, for all the wondrous places he's taken us, Sir David Attenborough's career with the BBC has been a fascinating, wondrous sixty-year journey all its own. Producing and presenting natural history programming through the 1950s, '60s and '70s, with only a brief hiatus to attend the London School of Economics for postgraduate work in social anthropology, Attenborough slowly but surely became a fixture at the BBC, which in turn allowed him to foster a close relationship with the BBC Natural History Unit. Without that relationship, there would be no Life series. And without the Life series, nature documentaries would be a different, less evolved beast entirely. In 1979, Attenborough delivered the first entry in the soon-to-be decades-long series, Life on Earth, an innovative, groundbreaking thirteen-episode documentary that set the stage for everything that was to come. In 1984, The Living Planet, a study of adaptation on global and geological scale. In 1990, The Trials of Life, an examination of animal behavior the world over. In 1993, Life in the Freezer, an expedition into the heart of Antarctica. In 1995, The Private Life of Plants, a stunning dissection of plantlife as riveting as the famed naturalist's wildlife documentaries. In 1998, The Life of Birds, in 2002, The Life of Mammals, in 2005, Life in the Undergrowth, and in 2009, Life in Cold Blood, a string of compelling series focusing on individual classes in the animal kingdom.
"It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement. The greatest source of visual beauty. The greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living."
Not content with simply helming his own Life series, Attenborough involved himself with numerous documentary series, some smaller and more intimate, others as grand and sprawling as his greatest ventures. The First Eden (1987). Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives (1989). The BBC Wildlife Specials (1997). State of the Planet (2000). The Blue Planet (2001). Planet Earth (2006). Tiger: Spy in the Jungle (2008). Nature's Great Events (2009). Life (2009). Madagascar (2011). Frozen Planet (2011). Secrets of Wild India (2011). And, most recently, Africa (2013), to name just a scant few. That, of course, skims past the dozens, verging on hundreds of episodes, specials, documentaries and programs of which Attenborough has been a part. If modern natural history was given a face and a voice, it would most certainly be those of Sir David Attenborough, a man whose legacy is only dwarfed by his immense and incredible body of work.
All of which, at long last, brings us to Attenborough's Life Stories (originally broadcast in the UK in 2012 as Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild). A brisk, blissful blend of autobiography, nature documentary and greatest hits reel, the three-episode series takes viewers on a trip through time, touching on everything from the early days of Attenborough's career to his Life series, its innovations and strides, the scientific breakthroughs he's ushered in (or at the very least bore witness to), the animals and locales that have most intrigued and delighted him over the years, and his impact on the landscapes of television, science, natural history and conservationism. He even takes the time -- an entire episode actually -- to deliver something of a state of the environment address, without sermonizing or wading into hyperbolic waters. With statesmanly poise and grandfatherly wisdom, he connects past to future, asking hard questions while showcasing the majesty of the planet as it was and is. And what it lacks in depth in just three short episodes, it more than makes up for in levity and wry British wit.
All told, Life Stories is brimming with humor, passion and determination, and stands as both a testament to Attenborough's contributions and an engrossing overview of everything he's accomplished and that his pioneering work will continue to accomplish. At 86-years old, David Attenborough's time on his beloved planet is drawing to a close. If nothing else, Life Stories sheds light on a man some know only as the BBC's go-to narrator, provides a glimpse at the changes (good and bad) that have occurred within his lifetime, and will leave most everyone itching to watch the series and specials (many still unavailable on Blu-ray) it chronicles. This one comes with my highest recommendation.
Attenborough's Life Stories Episode Guide:
Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray, Video Quality
Life Stories features a solid AVC-encoded video presentation marred only by the nature of the various video sources utilized in each episode. Footage is taken from Attenborough's entire sixty-year body of work, which is both amazing, in that it offers a rare look at a young, spry Attenborough on the front lines, and less-than-amazing, in that it doesn't always result in a pretty picture. Issues abound -- noise, aliasing, macroblocking, print damage, digital oddities, pulldown anomalies and other minor nuisances -- but I can say with some confidence that most, if not all, of these issues trace back to the original photography and sources. For better or worse, the presentation is faithful. More importantly, it's fit and proficient, with well-saturated colors, satisfying blacks, capable contrast and relatively revealing detail. Attenborough's dutiful fold won't find much to complain about, nor will those new to his career and countless series, so long as they approach Life Stories and its presentation with reasonable expectations.
Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The same applies to BBC Home Entertainment's DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, which is polished and exacting but not exactly ideal given the immersiveness of the planet Attenborough is exploring. Narration and voices are clear, nicely grounded and smartly prioritized. There are some problems inherent to the original audio elements (hiss, muffled lines and poorly captured effects), but absolutely none of it is indicative of a faulty track. The LFE channel and rear speakers are missed -- I would have loved a 5.1 mix, even if most of the series' highlight clips were limited to two channels -- just not sorely missed. There were very few times when I was reminded of its various shortcomings, and even fewer times when I felt the least bit disappointed. It may not be flashy, but BBC's lossless track doesn't fall short.
Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Life Stories doesn't include any special features.
Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"The whole of science, and one is tempted to think the whole of the life of any thinking man, is trying to come to terms with the relationship between yourself and the natural world. Why are you here, and how do you fit in, and what's it all about."
Attenborough's Life Stories turns the camera on a subject not often studied and assembles an excellent overview of the renowned naturalist's professional life and career. At three episodes, it's too short, but then again, I suspect I'd say the same even if it were expanded to six or twelve. BBC Home Entertainment's Blu-ray release is excellent too, with a solid AV presentation free from any notable distractions. Additional bonus content would have been appreciated, sure, but it's by no means a deal breaker. Life Stories is yet another terrific BBC documentary series and one fans of nature documentaries, natural history or Sir David Attenborough should add to their collection without hesitation.
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Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Attenborough's Life Stories Blu-ray - January 16, 2013
BBC Home Entertainment has officially announced the Blu-ray release of Attenborough's Life Stories, a three-part treasure trove of stories that chart the renowned naturalist's career with the BBC. Life Stories arrives on Blu-ray on February 12, 2013.
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